Updated: Mar 30, 2019
Fabryka Club, Krakow, 9/11/10
The Futureheads were a post-punk band from Sunderland who existed between 2000-2013. They surfed the wave of UK indie guitar bands in the noughties and produced five edgy, spiky, post-punk influenced albums which briefly troubled the outer regions of the charts, but their cult following never got beyond that and in 2013 after over a decade of playing and touring, they decided to go their separate ways. Ross Millard is now a member of Frankie & the Heartstrings, contributing to their third album Decency in 2015. Dave Hyde is one-half of the duo Hyde & Beast with Neil Bassett, formerly of The Golden Virgins. Jaff occasionally performs with School of Language. Fabryka Club, where they played on this decent night, was knocked down in 2014 and is now the site of an apartment block.
The Futureheads have, it seems, been around for yonks. The most famous band ever to have come out of Sunderland, except perhaps for The Toy Dolls, have crammed so much into their short career that it seems impossible that their blistering debut album, full of XTC nods, acappella harmonies and riffs ripped from bands like The Knack (think My Sharona) only came out in 2004. Three albums later, including one ‘difficult’ second one which resulted in them being unceremoniously dropped by their record label, they’ve become self-sufficient, self-managed and have set up their own record label: a tribute to perseverance. ‘The Chaos’, their latest release, is a spiky, angular record. To describe it as a return to form would be to inaccurately intimate that blistering talent ever eluded them. Rather, this release reflects a band who are once again happy with their lot, content in the freedom to produce and release albums under their own label, Nul Records. Fiercely energetic and full to bursting with hooky pop riffs, ‘The Chaos’ showcases The Futureheads at their best, and tonight's gig only serves to endorse this. Disappointingly, and rather mystifyingly given the band’s generally excellent live performances, the crowd numbers only about 150, and in Fabryka’s (Factory’s) industrial surrounds, there is enough room for everyone to swing several cats and not have to worry themselves about it. Nevertheless, there is a buzz of anticipation amongst those present; warmed up by local newcomers Bad Light District, whose moody Joy Division-esque sound, while not massively original, has the audience nodding appreciatively – definitely one to watch out for.
Striding on stage with languid ease, frontman Barry Hyde cuts an intensely charismatic figure, his coat tails and towering quiff unveiling a modern-day dandy. Triumphantly avoiding an awkward show promoting only new material, the band pepper the set with old favourites. 'Skip To The End' sees grown men bouncing across the venue like blissed-out teenagers. ‘Struck Dumb,’ with a corruscating riff, is the pick of their new songs – a paen to humanity’s potential innate genius, and is a return to the more jerky pop of their early days. ‘The Heart Beat Song’, similarly infectious and energetic, is three minutes of loveliness and the audience are again invited to join in - “We’re singing out of tune, but I still want to sing with you.” Inviting the room to join Ross and Jaff on backing vocals, which they do enthusiastically, 'Hounds Of Love' sends an enthusiastic crowd into overdrive, and sees one overexcited young man throwing his shoes onstage at the lyric “take my shoes off and throw them in the lake.”
The Futureheads are a notoriously proficient bunch, but nothing can prepare you for their bewildering and intimidating live talent: beat-perfect from start to finish, their new material sees the band playing artfully with traditional song structure, recklessly shifting into acappella asides and building complex four part harmonies on the moody, atmospheric 'Jupiter'. The inimitable Ross Millard hurls out sleazy guitars as anthemic chants drive each song home. 'Sun Goes Down' reveals a more conceptual approach and 'The Connector' unleashes a burst of energy so acute it is physically palpable. They encore to a rapturous reception – Le Garage, Meantime and, majestically, Man Ray are rehashed from their first album, and these classics go down a storm. The lyrics “give me manray/ fuck me like/ give me Weston/ Touch each other in black and white” making no more sense than they did in 2004. But frankly, who cares? As long as these canny lads keep giving us decent nights like this, they can sing what the hell they want. Do you know what I mean?
Photos: Jamie Howard
Interview With The Futureheads
After playing a storming set in Fabryka in Krakow as part of a short three-date Polish tour, I managed to catch up with Ross and Jaff from The Futureheads and ask them a few questions about what they’d been up to. So it’s not your first time in Poland, you’ve been here twice before right? Yeah, that’s right, we’ve played Warsaw twice before and Krakow once and we’ve played Lublin too – a student event there – and we did the Woodstock Festival last year too (Przystanek, in eastern Poland). That was a massive free festival – it was enormous like. And how did that go? Yeah, it was great for us, it was kind of bizarre, because it was the probably the biggest festival we’ve ever played – there were probably over 100,000 people, and there was just one big stage so if you’re not watching that, you’re not doing anything, you know what I mean. And there was a kind of ‘Hari Krishna’ element to it as well, which was fun! I think in festivals you have to alter your set slightly – you play your bigger ‘hits’ – songs people might know. You also have to put over a very direct kind of attitude – kind of ‘come and see us, we’re the guys you’ve got to see’ – they might not have heard of you, they might not know you, but that attitude also entertains the people who are there at the very front, in the front row.
How do you find the Polish audience compared to the Uk? I think they like their rock songs – we’ve got kind of two sides to our set list you know – sort of fidgety, 90 second punk rock songs which are a bit more avante-garde, a bit more jerky or jarring than the other side of our set which is a bit more kind of rock – we tend to find they like their fist-pumping rock a bit more. We’ve always liked playing here – the audiences are a bit less critical and you don’t get any heckling! (laughs).
You’ve just come off a tour of Germany supporting Linkin Park – can you tell me a bit about that? Yeah, we just did nine dates – they asked us to do it, though it raised a few eyebrows! Obviously it was a big surprise, cos people don’t tend to associate us with kind of American rock bands, they’re not the sort of band we’d normally be affiliated with – a lot of people looked at that and wondered if that tour could work, or if it was even worth our time doing it, you know, but it was good. Most of the dates were in Germany, there was one in France. It was good to play those shows in front of people who might not come and see you normally – obviously because we don’t normally play to 15,000 people! (laughs) but also brings you into rock a bit more cos you’re playing to a rock crowd. If you just stick to doing what you’re comfortable with, sort of doing your own thing, staying in your own little world, then there’s no challenge there anymore you know, and you kind of lose perspective on everything. So I think for us it was interesting to see that world exists – which we’d seen before – we’ve done tours with Pearl Jam, Pixies, this that and the other, where you’re playing in these enormous mega-domes. I think there’s something to enjoy in those gigs you know – anyone who says they don’t enjoy playing in stadiums in front of massive crowds is a liar – it’s a great ego-boost for sure. So when you play slightly smaller venues like this, is it a bit strange for you? Aye! (laughs) we’ve got a smaller following in Poland obviously, and we’ve never quite understood why that is – different tastes I suppose. We’ve had a lot of good gigs and reactions here but we’ve never really had the crowds. It’s just a case of playing more I guess – at the moment we just haven’t been here enough to have a big enough name. Obviously you’d prefer to have the largest gigs possible, but I think it’s the same if you play in front of 100 people, 1000 people or 10,000 people, because it’s all about the dynamic between us, what’s going on onstage – that’s the gig for us – that’s the bit that we concentrate on the most. Can you tell me about your new album? It’s called ‘The Chaos’ – this album’s the first record we’ve made in the north east...it’s been a gradual process, which I think was good for it because it meant that we could write a handful of songs, record them, and see if that would inform the rest of the writing process…so I think that in a way, even though the songs have been written over a large period of time, they all tie together quite nicely. It has some of our brightest songs on it, and it has some of our darkest songs on it. There’s a mixture of everything in there – everything that we do – there’s harmonies, there’s sadness, there’s positivity…it’s a positive album..that’s what I’d describe it as – a positive album. There’s a theme in it – quite a few of the songs have a similar theme – and one of them’s called ‘Struck Dumb’ – it’s about a belief that every human being without exception is a potential genius. Mebbes not in music or in art, but some people are geniuses at making stained glass windows – some people are genius at building tents or making microphones…I think that the whole point of being a human being is to find your own genius, in the sense of trying to create something instead of trying to destroy something. There’s too much apathy in this society that we live in, and I’m sick of it...and that’s what the message is – it’s like “come on people, if you want something, you’ve gotta make it happen” You’ve set up your own record label, ‘NUL Records’ as you are no longer with a major label, how is that going? Aye, we were dumped! (laughs) Our second album didn’t really sell as much as our record company hoped, and they decided to get rid of us. Some bands may feel like “this is the end of the road, let’s call it a day lads”, but we never thought that. In a way, it’s been kind of liberating for us, as we can now go in to the studio and enjoy ourselves, whereas in the past it could be a bit of a chore. We feel freer now and more able to express ourselves, and are obviously much more in control of what we do. It’s a kind of sense of liberation. We don’t intend to sign anyone to our label as that’s not what we set out to do. We just want to make music which is heard and appreciated, and play gigs. And make some money obviously! How do you feel about the internet and illegal downloading? Personally I don’t mind it. If some kid on 5 quid pocket money a week decides to download all our albums, listens to them and then pays 15 quid on a concert ticket and buys a T-shirt as a result of that, we’re still making a living. Of course, we’d like to sell more albums but so would everyone. It’s just a fact of life in music now. Can you give me your views on the music industry as it currently stands? I don’t know…the music business…this our tenth anniversary this year…I couldn’t even describe how much the business has changed. It’s ridiculous like. All the methods have changed, certain old ways o